Arthritis refers to damage to the joints from degeneration. The bones in our body are protected by cartilage which acts as a cushion and reduces the friction between bones when a particular body part is used. The cartilage also prevents the bones from rubbing against each other. With age, the cartilage starts to wear due to degeneration. This causes increased friction between bones such that they start rubbing against each other. This damages the joints of the body. This process of wearing down of cartilage and resultant damage to the joints is termed as osteoarthritis.
Some joints of the body are more prone to developing arthritis than others like the joints of the hands as hands are used almost on a continuous basis throughout the day. There is no cure for arthritis but the progression of the degeneration can be significantly slowed down. Delineated below are some steps to slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands.
How Can I Slow Down Arthritis In My Hands?
Progression of arthritis in the hand is signified by severe pain with any use of the hand with restriction in range of motion. The progression of arthritis in the hands can be slowed down by various means like:
Rest: The affected hand should not be used excessively, an ample amount of rest should be given to it. Try and not lift, push, or pull any heavy items with the hand since it puts severe pressure on the joints and further damages it.
Hot and Cold Therapy: This is also an effective way to slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands. You can use a towel dipped in warm water and apply it on the affected hand for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day to calm down the pain. Alternatively, ice cubes wrapped in a towel can be placed on the affected hand for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day for pain and discomfort. Hot and cold therapy should never be done simultaneously as they can lead to formation of blisters.
Paraffin Wax: This is also an effective remedy to slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands. Paraffin wax soothes the affected area and improves pain and stiffness. Paraffin wax treatments should only be done under the guidance of a skilled physical therapist and should not be attempted alone.
Splinting: Splints prevent excessive motion of the hand and slow down the degeneration of the joints. There are a variety of splints available in the market. Hand Splinting is also an extremely effective way to slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands. After consulting with a physician and physical therapist the splint best suited for you can be selected.
Capsaicin Creams: Capsaicin cream uses cayenne pepper for controlling pain caused by arthritis in the hands. These creams can be made at home by adding 2 sprinkles of cayenne pepper to about 3 teaspoons of olive oil and making a paste. The patient can then apply this paste on the hands for symptomatic relief from pain and discomfort. You need to make sure that there are no cuts or bruises in the area where the cream is applied since it may aggravate the wound. You should also avoid rubbing the eyes with the hand where the cream is applied the cream may irritate the eyes.
Exercises: You can do certain exercises meant to slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands. These exercises keep the ligaments and tendons flexible and reduce pain in the hands caused due to arthritis. These exercises are:
- Finger Straightening: Make a loose fist and then gradually straighten the fingers. Repeat this about 10 times for it to be effective in calming down the pain and slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands
- Finger Bends: You can bend each finger including the thumb slowly and then straighten it. Do this 5-10 times two to three times a day for best relief.
- Finger Lifts: Place the hand on the table and lift each finger up as much as possible without aggravating the pain. Hold the finger for 3 to 5 seconds and bring it down. Repeat this with each finger about 10 times.
Medications: Physicians also may recommend certain medications to slow down the progression of arthritis in the hands. These medications are Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory medications like ibuprofen or Tylenol, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, cortisone shots for reducing inflammation.
Surgery: If there is little to no success achieved in controlling the symptoms of arthritis in the hands by conservative means then the physician may recommend surgery. The type of surgery depends on the extent of the arthritis and work the individual desires to do with the hands.
If the individual is active and desires to continue to lead an active lifestyle then surgery to fuse the affected bones is preferred. People who are more sedentary prefer to have a joint replacement surgery. The physician will put all the options in front of the patient along with the risks and benefit of each approach. The patient can then decide on the type of surgery that he or she wants to undergo for slowing down the progression of arthritis in the hands.
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